Interdimensional research

Lately, I've been heavily involved with projects for The Center for Interdimensional Research. We are working on refurbishing a WWII-era temporal device and hopefully finish it in time for a field test at Bay Area Maker Fair in May, building a portable temporal field detector and many other projects.

Check out some of the exciting work CiDR is doing, and email them to get involved if you are interested.


Unconventional Doodles

May I present to you, my most recent artistic endeavor: Unconventional Doodles, a collection of anonymous artwork by bored conference attendees.

I've been collecting these doodles from the various hotels I work in for about four years now. It's a form of found art or maybe even folk art that's always amused me. It's definitely a statement about the corporate world.

I plan on hosting a gallery show as soon as I gather enough material, but please enjoy the tumblr blog in the mean time.


Sustainable dream utopia

Dreams have always fascinated me, and a few nights ago I had a particularly interesting one. I dreamed of a totally sustainable, self contained, Utopian human settlement set among the ruins of a formerly devastated society.

Some massive ecological disaster happened centuries in the past, humans managed to survive and rebuilt society in a better way, coexisting with nature.

It was a very visual dream, so to represent it more accurately, I recreated the settlement using the old SimCity 2000 Urban Renewal Kit that I spent hours playing with as a kid.

The settlement consists of a large arcology structure with a few surrounding buildings, in the middle of a massive crater.

The edge of the crater was lined with the ruins of a destroyed city. Presumably, the old city sprawled across the entire map at one point in time. An asteroid or man-made disaster destroyed most of the old city and left a huge crater in its place, which was overtaken by nature centuries later.


Barrel aged Soju

I should buy a barrel, seriously. A little one to keep on the counter and experiment with.

Anyway, I picked up a bottle of Widow's Migaki from Komasa distillery, a barrel aged soju, distilled from rice and barley. According to the bottle, this Japanese soju is "aged in oak barrels for a long time." I'm not sure how long, and I can't find any info on the web. The color reminds me of a reposado tequila, so maybe the aging time is similar. Who knows? This is the first time I've seen a barrel aged soju, though I'm not surprised. With the popularity of Japanese single malt whisky, it was only a matter of time before someone threw some soju in a barrel and shipped it to the West.

The flavor is mellow and fragrant. Oak notes definitely shine through. Migaki definitely stands alone as a top shelf product. Also, the Ukiyo-e style artwork on the bottle is quite lovely.

I love Asian spirits, and I think they are not well understood here in the US. There's a lot of room for experimentation and a lot of really great products are becoming available here. 

Soju and Shochu are lower alcohol content, so it's easy to overpower the subtlety of the spirits. They're normally served neat. 

I've been messing around with vermouth, liqueurs and other low proof stuff. Soju doesn't have a strong enough flavor to use as a rinse and it is too low proof to use as a float. It might be worth playing with, but it's hard to imagine combining it with higher proof spirits

This highball features honey, Dolin dry and orange bitters. I'm not terribly excited by it, but I think I'm headed in the right direction. I think serving it on the rocks with any kind of mixer waters it down too much though.  I served a soju lemon drop variation before that some people liked, but I don't think it was well balanced enough. I'll keep trying. 



Almond cream

Almonds, water, coconut oil, blender. Almond cream get the money.
I'm a food aversion hipster. I was allergic to dairy before it was cool. No, seriously, I've been allergic to dairy my whole life. I'm not lactose intolerant like most of the world, I'm allergic. It's like the peanut allergy, but less severe (I won't explode if I'm in the same room as a stick of butter).

Until recently, this has been a huge annoyance. Every time I sat down to eat with someone I would have to explain my bizarre allergy. 

"WHAT!?!?!? You can't drink milk!?! How do you eat cereal? You can't eat ice cream!?! I couldn't live without ice cream!!!!"

Not to mention the fact that Americans cover everything they eat in cheese. It's still annoying today, but there are a lot more options and better food labeling, I've also built up a bit of a tolerance.

The conversation at the table is a little different too. "Oh you don't eat dairy? Well, I'm gluten-free vegan. Is this organic?"

I still can't eat things like heavy cream though, and neither can most people in the world. So what's a good substitute when you need to make something like a Brandy Alexander or a Grasshopper?

There are plenty of milk substitutes: Rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, etc, but none of them have the consistency of heavy cream. No problem, just add coconut oil!

A tablespoon of coconut oil makes two cups of milk-substitute nice and thick and creamy! I decided to make my own almond milk to try it out. This seriously couldn't be easier: Soak almonds in water over night, then put them in a blender with water and coconut oil. Strain out the blended liquid and you're finished!


The improved Cable Car cocktail

The Chinese five spiced Brugal Añejo turned out wonderful! It's a complex and mysterious spice flavor that fits perfectly into my improved version of the Cable Car cocktail.

Again, the traditional Cable Car from the Starlight Room in the 90's was Captain Morgan spiced rum, orange curaçao and sour mix in a martini glass with a cinnamon-sugared rim. Captain Morgan is terrible rum and don't get me started on sour mix. Orange curaçao can be good if you choose a quality brand and use it correctly, but I think it is too sweet for this drink.

For my improved version, I wanted to pay homage to the original and also pay homage to San Francisco. So my recipe is: Chinese five-spiced Brugal Añejo rum, Cointreau, cinnamon syrup, lemon juice, egg white and a couple dashes of orange bitters.

I call it: The California & Grant.

I substituted the five-spiced Brugal for the Captain Morgan to give the drink a little taste of China Town. I think Cointreau is better than orange curaçao in this case because it is not as sweet. The cinnamon syrup gives the drink the sweetness it needs plus the additional warm spiciness of cinnamon.  Lemon juice balances it all out and the egg white makes it foamy. Orange bitters on top give the foam a nice aroma.

The new version is based on a sour, while the original is based on a Sidecar. I first served it in a martini glass, but I think a chilled, fancy rocks glass would be more appropriate.



Why make your own chocolate liqueur?

Mostly because it's fun and satisfying, but partly because there doesn't seem to be very many good products on the market. There doesn't seem to be any organic products either. I mean, Godiva is excellent, but it's expensive and there are other good chocolate liqueurs out there, but they're hard to find. And, of course, the cheap stuff is terrible.

So I decided to make my own 100 percent organic crème de cacao as part of my quest for the perfect grasshopper. It's been quite an enjoyable process so far. I've learned a lot about new ingredients like cacao nibs. I also learned how to split a vanilla bean, as I'm simultaneously making vanilla extract to use in the same recipe.

The process is basically like making a liquid chocolate bar. What do you need to make dark chocolate? Cacao, sugar, some other flavors like vanilla and a way to cook it. In this case, the way to cook it is infusing it in vodka.

It takes nine or ten days to infuse, so we'll have to be patient, but I'm excited to try it out when it's finished.